The Great Public Liability (PL) Shuffle - how much do I actually need?

aadukiThere has been a lot of talk recently about Public Liability (PL) and the "limits" that are available in the insurance market. PL is generally available in number of millions - standard covers tend to be either £1m or £2m, although as a general rule of thumb £2m should be the starting point for professional photographers.

This can then be increased up to £5m and this limit tends to be needed by those working for Local Authorities or schools or in shopping centres or on private property like some hotel and restaurant chains.

There is also a further option for £10m PL. When you start requesting this, it gets very expensive. Insurers are willing to take the "risk" up to £5m in most cases, but when the limits start increasing over this, then they tend to re-insure in case of a large claim. This means they are paying an insurance premium on your cover - to protect them in the case of having to pay out!

The actual premiums based on £10m PL start around the £300 per year mark in addition to anything else you want to insure (like equipment, Professional Indemnity etc.) and take account of your annual turnover - the more money you earn, the higher the premium will be as the greater the perceived risk. If you do any work airside at airports, on oil rigs, trackside at motorsport events or anything that Insurers perceive to be "risky" then you may want to prepare yourself for an even higher premium!

How do I avoid spending out large premiums on PL insurance?

The important point to remember is that you should have some cover! In most instances, a level of £2m will suffice and on some occasions you may need to have £5m.

Most Local Authorities and shopping centres will ask for the £5m limit. This is because they have a generic policy which runs "across the board" for ANYONE that undertakes any work in their premises. This means you can be lumped into the same category as someone digging a hole and erecting plastic barriers around it when the work you do is inherently safer than a majority of the other services provided or used by Local Authorities!

Firstly, when you are asked to "prove" you have insurance, regardless of what the paperwork might suggest, provide them with your insurance schedule, even if they ask for £5m and you only have £2m! In most cases, the officers or workers at the Local Authority will take a pragmatic view and will accept it. In the cases where they do not and they ask you for more cover, it is wise to try and challenge them as to the reason why. Ask them what their risk assessment has shown as the risk associated with the work you are doing and why this suggests a higher limit of £5m.

When you are conducting work for the Authority, again, ask for their risk assessments if they request a higher level of PL. If they insist on £5m PL, suggest to them they will have to pay the addition premium as well as your fee - you will soon see that £2m will be ok as they won't want to pay any additional fees

What if they want the higher level no matter what?

Then there will be no way around it you will need to purchase it! The first thing to do is to call your insurance provider and see if you can add the cover on short-term. Some Insurance Companies will allow this, there is less of a risk to them if they are only covering it short term, whilst others will want you to increase the sum insured for the remainder of the policy.

It is worth noting that if you do require the £10m cover you should expect to see an increase of at least £300 so you should factor this in to any job you quote for!

Can I buy this PL cover from any broker?

Always make sure you buy PL cover from an insurance provider that understands what you do and therefore the risks associated with your work. It is worth noting that whilst PL for photographers might be slightly more expensive that a simply "business" quotation - the Insurers WILL understand what you do and how claims come about.

What is 3rd Party Property Damage?

This is a part of PL cover which you need if you visit other premises. If you are at someone's house or work place and you cause damage to something that belongs to them, then it is likely they will make a claim against you. Whilst most PL cover has no excess, this section of cover will carry an excess of £250 which you will be liable for first before Insurers will pay anything. In the case of serious damage, however, this is a relatively small price to pay! Make sure your policy has this on. Almost all photographic policies will have this section, but some policies available elsewhere will specifically exclude it - no use if you're in and out of other premises all the time!

Generally, what level of cover will I need?

Set out below is the levels of cover that would be recommended depending on the work you were undertaking. Remember, this is not set in stone and you do need to review what you do to ensure that you have the correct cover for you!

£2m Suitable for:

Weddings, Portraits, Landscapes, Architectural, Wildlife, Commercial, Sport (not motorsports), Travel, Events (some), Photo-journalism, Glamour.

£5m Suitable for:

Local Authorities, Schools, Industrial, Motorsports, Aerial, Events (majority) & Fashion

This list is not exhaustive, but should give you an idea of the kind of PL limits you should consider when taking out a policy. It is always worth getting the advice of your insurance provider too - after all, they should be able to give you a good steer on what is needed.

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